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Backyard Raccoon 'Latrines' Harbor Hidden Dangers

As summer hits its stride, many Americans are taking a moment to step into their backyards and smell the roses. And lilies. And, uh, raccoon feces?

That's the case for many Americans living near woods or marshes. And backyard "raccoon latrines" -- spots created by the animal as a kind of shared public bathroom -- are ground zero for the transmission of a dangerous parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis, researchers say.

Raccoons infected with the intestinal roundworm tend to shed about 20,000 of the parasite's egg for every gram they leave behind in droppings, the researchers noted. Human infection, which can lead to the onset of encephalitis, can occur when children's muddied hands touch their mouth after inadvertently playing in an infected backyard.
 
 

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